On the 24th of March 2023, Diamonds for Peace held a webinar entitled “Myths in Artisanal Diamond Mining”.
The webinar began with Diamonds for Peace founder, Chie Murakami, speaking to the listeners about the history of Diamonds for Peace and how it began. Chie spoke about the work DFP have done and the work that is needed to work towards the DFP vision of creating a world in which diamonds are mined, cut, and processed with humanitarian and environmental considerations.
After Chie’s introduction, we heard from our first guest speaker Beth West. Beth is a gemmologist, writer, educator, volunteer for DFP and is the Director of the GCS gem lab in London. Beth was the DFP trainer on site for the “Basic Training on Rough Diamond Grading and Valuation in Liberia” project in 2022. The most notable myth encountered was the notion that diamonds are used in airplanes – miners are not aware that they are used for jewellery. They understood diamonds are valuable, but they assume something with such high value means it has a specific use and a valuable purpose.
Diamond mining is their primary source of income, and they are so desperate to sell they are often taken advantage of by their local investors. The cooperative of miners in collaboration with DFP aims to break the miner’s dependence on the investors that have entitlement over the sale of the diamond so that the cooperative (members) can run their own mining activities with their own fund. They need a better understanding of diamonds so they can negotiate a better price – this was how the rough diamond grading workshop came to be. Basic training over two days with a basic goal to help miners understand what goes through a diamond buyers mind when purchasing a piece of rough and picturing what it will yield when cut.
After Beth’s presentation, we heard from the second guest speaker, Caelen Burand. Caelen is a mining engineer and geologist who visited Weasua, a DFP’s partner mining community in Liberia, in December 2022 and gave the miners a workshop on responsible diamond mining. He first started with baseline survey – the aim of this was to observe current mining practices, and then went on to conduct training on the basics of alluvial diamond mining, evaluate potential for mechanization and advancement and minimize environmental impact. It was apparent after speaking with the artisanal miners that they all want to be able to mine diamonds faster and more efficiently and to become professional miners.
Caelen taught them about the Mining life cycle which includes prospecting, exploration, digging, mineral processing and reclamation.
Myths that came up during the training were that the miners believe diamonds are incredibly dense and always sink to the bottom of the jig and they believe this because of free will and/or Jinnia. They also believe diamonds and the jig are both magnetic and are attracted to each other. It was apparent the miners believed that diamonds are the only valuable mineral in Weasua when there is actually an abundance of other minerals in the area that are also of value such as spinel, quartz, and ruby.
Caelen’s path forward with the miners is to Improve mineral processing, improve their business acumen and scaling and to continue with their environmental stewardship.
Caelen concluded that myths are best dispelled by demonstration, it wasn’t until the miners physically saw that diamonds do not always sink to the bottom of the jig that they then started to believe that this isn’t always the case. Caelen also discovered that the myths the artisanal miners believe in are derived from observations and are passed down through the generations.
You can watch the webinar recording here: